History of wireless telegraphy and broadcasting in Australia/Topical/Biographies/Alfred Harold Masters/Wikipedia

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Alfred Harold "Harold" Masters (7 Nov 1875 - 27 Apr 1951) was one of Tasmania's earliest wireless and X-ray experimenters. He was for many years councillor and superintendent of Launceston Technical School. A prominent Launceston architect and electrical engineer, he designed several of Launceston and district's major buildings. He planned and oversighted commissioning of electric light systems in several towns in northern Tasmania. He was an early advocate for adoption of hydro-electric power. Masters represented the Tasmanian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and actively promoted adoption of town planning principles in the Launceston community where he lived his entire adult life.

Early life[edit]

Alfred Harold "Harold" Masters was the second child of Joseph Masters (1845 - 1925)[1] and Ann Auchterlonie Masters nee Anderson (1843 - 1904)[2]. Harold was born 7 November 1875[3] at Kew, Victoria. His father, Joseph Masters received a Master of Arts at Melbourne University and was a Congregational minister in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. In 1887 he was appointed Inspector of Schools in Northern Tasmania, then Director of Education, finally Secretary of Education, retiring in 1918.[4] He married Ann Aucherlonie Anderson at St Kilda, Victoria 13 March 1872.[5] They had six children together:

  • William Edward Masters (1873 - 1952)[6] BA[7], LL.B[8] Melbourne University, barrister at Hobart, Hobart historian[9] m. Rowena Ella "Ella" Masters nee Spong
  • Alfred Harold Masters (1875 - 1951)[10] architect, Launceston, the subject of this article
  • Annie Lillian Masters (1876 - 1877)[11] died as a baby
  • Rosa Masters (1878 - 1954)[12] never married, Artist
  • Arthur Murray Masters (1880 - 1929)[13] M.D. Edinburgh University
  • Herbert Masters (1884 - 1900)[14] died of typhoid, age 15

Professional Career[edit]


Masters commenced his architectural career in the late 1880s in the architectural department of J. and T. Gunn[15], a business which had been established in Launceston in the mid 1870s as timber merchants[16] and progressively expanded its operations into all classes of building supplies.[17] In late 1897 he commenced as a sole trader, advertising as Architect and Electrician, with premises at A.M.P. Chambers, Cameron St., Launceston.[18] The business developed rapidly, early major appointments were to the new wing of the Queen Victoria Hospital (Launceston) in 1900[19], the new Devon Cottage Hospital in 1902[20], a further new wing (Dunorlan-Noake) of the Queen Victoria Hospital in 1903[21], the Saddler's Arms Hotel (Elizabeth Town) in 1903[22] and extensive alterations to St. Andrew's Church (Launceston)[23]. For a time Masters partnered with Alexander (Eric) North[24]

Architecture Institute[edit]

The Tasmanian Association of Architects was formed in 1903 and Masters was involved at an early stage, holding the position of Hon. Secretary for several years.[25][26] In 1908 Masters was elected president of the association[27] and continued in various roles thereafter.[28][29] About 1910 the association was renamed the Tasmanian Institute of Architects and in 1915 a Federal Council of Australian Architects was formed and the institute affiliated with that group.[30] In 1919 Masters was again elected president and also to represent the institute at national conference.[31] In 1922 Masters was in a delegation of architects urging the government to seek input from the council in the design and planning for the national capital, Canberra.[32] Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Masters continued in various roles with the Tasmanian Institute (eg vice-president 1934[33]; president 1935[34]; past-president 1936[35]).

Electrical Engineer[edit]

Masters was a strong advocate for the use hydro-electric power in northern Tasmania where the multiplicity of local councils tended to favour control of their own smaller plants. In February 1925 he published an opinion piece immediately prior to a referendum on the subject in Longford.[36]

Launceston Technical School[edit]

The Launceston Technical School (later Technical College) was established in 1888 and Masters was amongst the first pupils.[37] He was awarded a prize in Art at the first exhibition in early 1890. His association with the school continued his entire life. As a student he undertook instruction in Building Construction, Art and Perspective, Magnetism and Electricity.[38] In late 1896 Masters commenced as instructor in electricity, that class having lapsed for a time.[39]

Wireless Experiments[edit]

There do not appear to be contemporaneous reports of Masters experimenting in wireless prior to 1900, however he was lecturing in electricity and magnetism from the late 1890s at the Launceston Technical School. Thomas Edward Self was the first to demonstrate wireless (to the Royal Society) in Tasmania in July 1898 and his experiments were widely reported.[40] Likely Masters' experiments followed in 1899 and were limited to indoors rather than long distance. Masters' gave a lecture and demonstration of X-rays at the Victoria Museum in September 1901 and promised a further lecture on wireless telegraphy.[41] Finally, in October 1905 (post Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905 and apparently unlicensed), he gave a lecture and demonstration of wireless to the Launceston Branch of the Australian Natives' Association.[42] In November 1905 a further lecture and demonstration was given by Masters to some 400 persons at the Victoria Museum.[43] For this demonstration, Masters supplemented his own equipment by arranging the loan of low power Telefunken equipment from their Melbourne agency. This is believed to be the first land use of Telefunken equipment in Australia. Masters was aided in the demonstration by Post Office telegraphists G. Braithwaite and T. P. Richardson.[44] In February 1906, HMS Pioneer anchored at Rosevears near Launceston and Masters was part of the official party. He inspected the Pioneer's wireless equipment and scheduled experiments using his own equipment.[45] Masters, Richardson and Braithwaite set up the equipment the Albert Hall with an antenna attached to the flagstaff. In the following days, they successfully transmitted to the HMS Pioneer, at anchor and en route to Devonport, however the receiving was less satisfactory.[46] Masters continued with lecturing in wireless telegraphy and in May 1906 lectured on that topic to the St. John's Young Men's Club.[47] When the temporary AWA wireless telegraphy link was about to be established between Queenscliff and Devonport, local Launceston reporters sought out Masters for expert advice on wireless telegraphy principles and practice.[48][49] There is no record of a licence under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905 having been issued for any of these experiments. Masters continued to promote wireless telegraphy in Launceston up to the start of World War I. Twin brothers Cyril Wilson Monk (later callsign: 7BR) and Alfred Brendon Monk who became telegraphists in the Naval Wireless Service in 1911 were pupils of Masters at the Launceston Technical School.[50]

Amateur Radio[edit]

Masters is not reported as playing a part in the initial formation of the Launceston Wireless Club from August 1923 in the excitement of the commencement of the Wireless Regulations 1923.[51][52][53] However, when the club soon restructured into the Launceston Branch of the Wireless Institute of Australia (Tasmanian Division), Masters was elected as one of the vice-presidents.[54] In January 1924, he lectured to a meeting of the branch on the "Advance of Radio Science"[55] and again in April 1924 on "Magnetic Induction as applied to Wireless"[56] The first annual meeting of the club in September 1924 reflected general apathy of the members, the widespread man-made interference ("the Roar") being experienced in Launceston a major factor. Masters was thanked for his contributions[57] and elected Chairman of the Council.[58] He published a detailed hypothesis on causation of the Roar[59], and set the resources of the club to locate and identify.[60] However a competing club had been established in October 1924, the Launceston Radio Experimenters' Club, in response to beaurocracy and lack of actual wireless experimenting activities. The new club comprised the majority of Launceston's active experimenters and took up the investigation into the roar.[61] Despite all efforts the roar remained for several years and progressively diminished as better power distribution equipment was implemented. In September 1925, the Wireless Institute of Australia (Tasmanian Division) was formed with a view to meeting the needs of all Tasmanian experimenters and Masters was elected first president.[62] From 1927, he withdrew from administrative activities in amateur radio, though his interest continued. In September 1933 the Launceston Technical College decided to commence a course in radio engineering and Masters was instrumental in this.[63] In 1935 the College supplemented the radio engineering course with with a one year course specifically focussed on the award of the Postmaster-General's Department Amateur Operators Certificate of Proficiency.[64][65] In the lead up to World War I, in April 1939, the Launceston Technical College made available its facilities to the Royal Australian Air Force Selection Board for the examination of candidates as fitters and wireless operators.[66]

Community Activities[edit]


Masters married Alice Weymouth on 29 November 1899 at Launceston[67]. At the time of her marriage, Alice was employed as a milliner, but subsequently devoted herself to her family. She was the third daughter in a large family of 10, her parents being Alfred Weymouth (carpenter, 1842 - 1925) and Martha Elizabeth nee Cooper (1853 - 1910). Harold and Alice had 5 children together:

  • Muriel Frances Masters (1900 - 1979)[68] librarian, never married
  • Thelma Francis Masters (1902 - 1960)[69] never married
  • Alma Jean "Jean" Masters (1905 - 1933)[70] never married
  • Alan Ewan Masters (1907 - 1977)[71] married Katherine Jean Will
  • Enid Joyce Masters (1911 - 2002)[72] married Edney Herbert Forward


Further Reading[edit]

Wikibooks contributors, "History of wireless telegraphy and broadcasting in Australia", Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project, https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/History_of_wireless_telegraphy_and_broadcasting_in_Australia/Topical/Biographies/Alfred_Harold_Masters, retrieved 11 January 2021, "Biography, Alfred Harold Masters" 


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